When people talk about emergency preparedness, we tend to only think of the needs of our family members. However, during Hurricane Katrina, about 600,000 pets were killed or left without a home as a result of the 2005 hurricane. That’s why it’s essential to have an emergency preparedness plan for pets — and they’re super easy to make.
Celebrity pet expert Harrison Forbes offers some great, simple tipsfor creating a pet emergency kit, drills to try, and other vital information to keep your pet as safe as possible during the unexpected.
PARENTOLOGY: What are 5-10 essentials to have in your pet emergency kit?
Harrison Forbes: Anti-bacterial ointment, bandages/wraps, paw covers (booties), bottled water, two days’ worth of food, and duplicate identification tags in case there is a need to change out the normal collar. In addition, make sure to have a leash or collar readily available. I prefer a harness for a kit, although not for everyday use. A harness can be useful in lifting a pet out of water or over obstacles.
Are there any specific necessities for certain emergencies?
For a fire, make sure to have a fire-resistant blanket on hand so you can shield your pet from heat. Water, booties, and food are a must in the event of an earthquake. If you’re expecting a hurricane, a life vest is essential, as is the extra food.
Is there any way to prepare your pet in advance?
A little “disaster prepping” is always a great idea! Just remember to always make the drills fun and treat oriented. The real deal will always be more serious, but hopefully your pet will recognize the routine and fall into rhythm when things get chaotic.
What kinds of exercises should be done so that they see the treat-oriented drill as an okay thing?
I would suggest doing a “disaster drill” exercise with the entire family. Imitate the rushed process of grabbing essentials and exiting the home. Throughout the course of the drill, provide treats, and use a high-pitched “good dog” voice.
Start off practicing the drills at a low intensity that you can then escalate over time to mimic the anxiety and stress associated with a real situation of chaos. In case a disaster should hit, your pet should “know the drill” and fall into the routine.
Are there any tricks to calm your pet during the emergency?
The key to keeping your pet calm is to think of an imaginary electric cord from you to your pet; all your emotions transmit straight to them. If you transmit a calm and confident exterior, your pet will follow suit.
When our pets are hit with new situations that they aren’t used to, they look to us and how we react to determine if a situation is safe. It is genetic wiring—they learn by interpreting body language and vibes from their mothers. If she is tense or scared they assume the situation must be bad, but if she is calm everything is okay.
Are there any medications you can give to your pet to calm them during the real deal?
There are medications available for pets during an emergency. Talk to your vet to see which are right for your pet. However, I have found that in a real crisis, they don’t do much. Adrenaline overrides much of the medications’ effectiveness or just makes them lethargic—which can make moving a big dog a real hassle.
If it’s not necessary to evacuate, where are the best/safest places in the home to keep your pet during the disaster?
Keep your pet with you as much as possible no matter where you are in your [house or] apartment. This will help reduce risk of them escaping or running off and it will keep their stress levels to a minimum.
Are there any specific things you should do for your pet that only apply to a certain type of animal?
According to Rent.com, 62% of renters are living with cats. Cats, in particular, need a good carrier with shoulder straps for easy transport. But the bottom line for any pet is to keep calm and you will keep them calm, thus avoiding additional chaos.